Paris - Donors at an international conference today to raise funds for Lebanon pledged a total of $11 billion, mostly made up of low-interest loans, French President Emmanuel Macron announced. "This day of work has been productive... in total the conference has enabled us to line up a little more than 11 billion (dollars) in commitments," Macron said in closing remarks at the CEDRE conference in Paris. The EU rowed in with a promise of 150 million euros, the Netherlands offered 300 million euros, Italy pledged 120 million euros, France's ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher said. International donors pledged aid and loans for Lebanon hoping to stave off an economic crisis in a country hard hit by the fallout from the Syrian war.Some 40 countries sent representatives to the meeting.
Lebanon's economy has been squeezed by repeated domestic political crises, as well as the war in neighbouring Syria which has sent a million refugees across the border - equivalent to a quarter of the Lebanese population before the conflict. Economic growth has plunged from eight percent since the start of the war to around one percent. Opening the conference with a promise of 550 million euros, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged donors to dig deep to help keep the peace in Lebanon. "In a Middle East shaken by crises, wounded by civil wars, Lebanon remains a model of pluralism, tolerance and openness which we need," he said. "But Lebanon is not an island. It's borne the full force of regional tensions and the Syria crisis," he said, adding that it was also grappling with the threat of terrorism. France, which held mandate power over Lebanon for the first half of the 20th century, has been leading efforts to try stabilise the country.